RE: [mythsoc] Re: Guy Gavriel Kay's work
- At 02:54 PM 6/28/2004 -0400, Leelan Lampkins wrote:
> And the point of the story seems to me to retell all of the oldIt takes tremendous chutzpah to claim that what is, in fact, your cheap
>storylines and cliches. Several times in the text a character will say that
>most of what happens in the other dimensions are echoes of the reality of
reproduction of something else is actually the original and that the real
original is in fact the cheap reproduction.
More than chutzpah, it takes skill, skill which Kay as a beginning writer
most emphatically did not have. He might have it now; but even the
experienced Roger Zelazny could not get away with claiming that his
cardboard knock-off world Amber was the real world and that our world was
the cardboard knock-off.
Perhaps the only writer who's actually been able to be convincing in
claiming that his copies are the lost originals of the real-world legends
they're actually based on is J.R.R. Tolkien.
> Chaucer as much as said through his work that there are no new storiesNowhere near entirely true, but even to the extent it is, using an old
>and that an author cannot avoid seeming to plagiarize other's work and
>ideas. So many people have told so many stories that it is almost
>impossible to be original.
story as the framework for a new story is not the same thing as copying the
old story, or even worse claiming that your new story is more real than the
>Tolkein backs him up in this. If you have readThere is, however, no kitchen sink in Tolkien's work. Or Tolkein's either.
>Shippey's bio, "J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century", then an obvious
>example comes to mind. The names of Gandalf and Thorin and Co. all come
>from the Icelandic sagas. And, again, there are many story threads in
>Tolkein's books that are the spitting image of stories in ancient Norse
Tolkien, or Tolkein, or both, used the metaphor of "the leaf-mould of the
mind" to describe influences. They have to be fully digested and
assimilated into the author's own experience and reused as something new.
Throwing together bits and pieces from everywhere and yonder is fun enough
for comedy or other light work - Peter David, whom you mention, is a fine
light comedian among fantasy writers - but it's not going to create a
>So I don't buy snubbing an author's work because they useIf they don't use them badly, they're not cliches.
>cliches. If they use them badly, then OK. Don'y read it and tell all your
>friends. But if the author uses them with skill - as I think GGK does -
>then just say that you don't like his book.
You beg the question here. Why do we not like the book? Well, besides
that it's tediously written, badly organized, and with implausible premises
- is that enough so far? - the cliches are not used with skill. Your
argument is logical, it's your premises that are wrong.
> I like seeing how old stories are given new treatments. What follows isThis is hardly the first reading that comes to my mind of "Dark Knight
>one example that comes to mind.
> "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" is a very strange retelling of
>"Beowulf". It is very intense and includes ALL of the episodes and
>characters of the ninth century story. The fun is picking out"who is who"
>and "what is what".
Returns". But whatever, I suppose it can be made to fit "Beowulf" too.
(Is it just supposed to be the dragon scene, or what?)
And yes, there is much excellent mythopoeic literature written on this
model, fitting the template of an older story. I recommend "Fire and
Hemlock" by Diana Wynne Jones as a particularly excellent _and_
particularly self-conscious example.
But that's not at all the same thing as claiming that your story is the
lost original of what you're copying. Nor is a good "template" story a
copy: it's a new story on the same theme.
- David Bratman
- For you Butterburra-hobbits:
Want to discuss his latest in BW this next year? I think it's *Light of
the Sun.* Anyone know if it's a stand-alone or part of a series? ---djb
From: David Lenander d-lena@...
Date: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 21:57:11 -0500
Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Guy Gavriel Kay's work
I'm with Alexei on his work. I read only the first volume of his
initial trilogy, and was not inspired to read more. However, many
years of being on the MFA committees have forced me to read a number of
his later works, and I think he's become progressively better as a
writer, starting with a giant leap forward in _Tigana_. I liked one or
two books along the way better than that one, and "The Sarantine
Mosaic" was a masterpiece. It's quite a different sort of book from the
early trilogy, a loosely fictionalized and fantasied historical novel,
set in an alternate world Byzantine empire, so people who are allergic
to that sort of book (the main complaint I remember from a Butterbur's
Woodshed discussion was that if he was going to so thinly fictionalize,
why didn't he just go ahead and write a historical?) may need to avoid
it. But it's beautifully written, and the work of the protagonist, a
mosaicist, as well as the characters and the philosophical ruminations
are quite marvelous. It is two volumes long, by the way.
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> > I like seeing how old stories are given new treatments. What follows"Beowulf" has four main episodes. They are Breca, Grendel, Grendel's
> >one example that comes to mind.
> > "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" is a very strange retelling of
> >"Beowulf". It is very intense and includes ALL of the episodes and
> >characters of the ninth century story. The fun is picking out"who is
> >and "what is what".
>This is hardly the first reading that comes to my mind of "Dark Knight
>Returns". But whatever, I suppose it can be made to fit "Beowulf" too.
>(Is it just supposed to be the dragon scene, or what?)
>- David Bratman
mother and the Dragon.
"Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" was originally sold in four issues. They
dealt with Two-Face, Mutant Leader, Joker and Superman.
In the first episode, the hero contends with someone who was once a good
friend, someone that had the same struggles that they had but who did not
finish the race. In Breca's case, the race is literal. In Harvey Dent's or
Two-Face's case, it is spiritual.
In the second episode, the hero faces a monster. Beowulf faces Grendel
and Batman faces the monstrous Mutant Leader. Beowulf tears Grendel's arm
off. At the end of the second match, Batman breaks ML's arms and legs one
The third episode, the hero faces the mother of monsters. Beowulf tracks
Grendel's mother to the bottom of a dark foul lake where he kills her after
a terrible battle. Batman tracks the Joker's trail of sensless murder
through a carnival where he defeats him deep within the Tunnel of Love where
the Joker dies.
The end comes when the hero faces the supernatural. Beowulf faces the
Dragon and dies in victory. Batman faces Superman and kicks his butt but
"dies" of a heart attack.
There are differences in some small details. But on the whole they are
the same story.
Hrothgar's country is menaced by monsters that only Beowulf defeats.
Commissioner Gordon's city is savaged criminals that only Batman can match.
Unferth doubts Beowulf and tries to hinder him. The new commissioner not
only doubts Batman but does her best to bring him in under arrest.
Wiglaf stands beside Beowulf against the Dragon. Carrie Kelly takes
Robin's place much earlier in the story but stands beside Batman even up to
the battle with Superman.
As I said, there are differences but the main details are there and in
the right order. There is not much of a struggle to make the pieces
And, I have to admitt, that I did enjoy seeing the Joker kill David
Letterman, Paul Shaffer and Doctor Ruth. And the author of "Seduction of
the Innocent", Fredric Wertham, was also killed in the persona of the
Joker's doctor, Dr. Wolper, who also treated Harvey Dent. Both doctors had
very unpleasant things to say about Batman.
But the clue for me was that one word in "Beowulf", "aglaeca" which means
both "hero" and "monster". Batman fits that to a "T". As a character he is
very familiar to most Americans and possibly to many outside the States as
well. Maybe as familiar as Beowulf was to his original audience. As such
they are mythic in stature if not in reality. Batman is both hero and
monster. A hero because he stands between the people and the monsters that
threaten them. A monster because only a monster could be strong enough to
fight another monster.
P.S. As for the Fionavar Tapestry, I will agree that Kay is clumsy in many
ways. Some of the story is painful to get through. But his use of the
Arthurian Cycle is for me the saving grace.
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